Remembering 9/11 and our challenge as citizens

Published 2:55 pm Tuesday, September 7, 2021

It’s been 20 years since the terror attack on this nation, which left smoke billowing from the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2011. A plane also crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and a third hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
All of us remember where we were that fateful day and in the days that followed when we were glued to our TV sets as the drama continued to unfold across this land and the world. We remember how this nation came together under the colors of the red, white, and blue. We were a united country, resolute to fight for freedom and against those who threatened that freedom.
The assault on our nation Sept. 11, 2011, left a hole in our nation’s heart.
A generation of men and women, many of them young adults, have no memory of 9/11. In Afghanistan last month, Marines served and died in a war that had lasted their entire lives.
This year the anniversary of 9/11 comes at a time when America is dealing with a pandemic that has claimed more than 645,000 lives — more deaths than World War I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and Desert Storm claimed. Much of the U.S. is recovering from Hurricane Ida, which has devastated parts of Louisiana and the Northeast. Drought and forest fires are raging in the West. All of that and and we are a nation that cannot live with each other. We have no leadership in Washington…all our leaders know is bickering and fighting. There is no desire to work together.
The end of the Afghanistan war is only one of many dreary headlines.
The tragedy of 9/11 brought this country together. It sparked tremendous acts of courage and sacrifice, an outpouring of sympathy from both our allies and enemies the world over, but most of all a surge of unity and patriotism. But, the wounds have never healed. In fact, they have festered until there is little trust in institutions, in our leaders, and in one another.
There have been riots and brutal attacks in our streets, mistrust in our elections, a sitting president who encouraged an attack on our nation’s capitol, and yet, we say we are a nation that trusts in God.
While there are many things that are wrong with America, there are many things that are right. As dark as these two decades have been, all has not been lost. We must return to the basic principles that this country was built upon and live up to them. We must demand that our leaders live up to them.
We must look within our communities and see the good, see our neighbors and their many acts of compassion and understanding. They are not only white people, but people of color and every nation. We must learn to live together, respect our institutions, and elect men and women who are selfless in their service, who will seek the betterment of our country rather than their own enrichment.
The threat of extremist violence remains real and must be confronted, but it also comes from the far right here at home.
This Sept. 11, we honor the grace, dignity, and memory of the nearly 3,000 persons lost that fateful day in 2011 in Lower Manhattan, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa. We honor the men and women who since that day have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must push forward with a better vision of a better America, and it starts with each individual.
It’s all about you and me, and what we can do to make our communities and neighborhoods better places and this character must extend to our statehouses and then to the nation’s capital. A country is only as good as its people and leaders.